U.S. venture capitalists have been deep in the doldrums, with less money -- and less appetite for risk -- than they've had in years. So it's only natural to wonder whether foreign capital -- particularly, the deepening pools in Europe or Japan -- can pick up any of the slack. A new book, Venture Japan: How Growing Companies Worldwide Can Tap into the Japanese Venture Capital Markets (Probus, 800-776-2871, 1992, $47.50), contains some preliminary indications, at least, that Japanese venture capitalists (historically more insular and far more conservative than their American brethren) may be ready to take on a more global role.

The bulk of investing by Japan's more than 100 venture firms is still directed at relatively established technology companies in their home market, notes James W. Borton, the editor of this small compendium. But over the past few years, he observes, two significant wrinkles have developed: first, a greater willingness by Japanese VCs to explore investments (coupled with some type of technology transfer or manufacturing right) in U.S. and European companies; and second, more openness to service and retail deals.

The book is repetitive at times, but it does provide interesting material on global investing and strategic partnering, and basic information -- names, addresses, and phone numbers (but unfortunately, little more) -- on 48 Japan-based venture-capital firms. -- Bruce G. Posner